Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Realtor

    Before you hire “just any agent” to sell your home, ask a few questions. Interview multiple agents – on the phone to start, then in person. The key is compare as many agents as you need until you feel assured you’ve found the best agent for you. There is no single best agent for every seller. Pick the one you feel comfortable with, someone you communicate easily with, and one you trust. This could be a long road – so don’t settle for someone who is “good enough”. If you are uneasy at all with someone, don’t sign that listing contract. Wait to find someone who you feel confident and comfortable with.

    Do you work full or part-time as a real estate agent?

    Full-time agents are likely to give you (and other potential home buyers) more time and attention. RAMUS Realty Group only hires full time agents because this is a difficult job to do part-time. Part-time agents can succeed in this business, but we want only full-time, dedicated professionals to serve our clients. If you hire a part-time agent you risk not being able to communicate quickly with that person if they’re at their “real job” during the day. Other agents may have trouble schedule showings and negotiating offers with someone who has to return calls on their lunch hour or after 5 p.m.

    How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood or town in the past year or two?

    Ideally, you want someone with a track record in your area. If you are listing a special type of property (say a farm, a condo, or a high-end property) you specifically want someone who knows how to handle the quirks of those special listings.

    As for data. How many homes are on the market that will be competing with your home? How many sold in the past 6 months? What is the average days on market? The more stats and data the agent is able to provide, the more confident they are in sharing their expertise and their ability to sell your home. Top agents know the statistics and are prepared to show you the data.

    How many sellers are you representing now?

    Do you want an agent with one or two listings (who says he has lots of time for you) or one with 20 or more (showing they are successful at what they do)? There is probably wisdom in the crowd – and the busier agents are more productive in general. The busier the agent and the office, the more buzz and activity going on. The more office signs you see, the better. These are offices with higher market share. The more signs, the more listings, the more activity – the better for you to be in on that buzz.

    What aspects of the transaction will you personally handle and which will be delegated to others?

    Most busy, top producing agents delegate, so do not let that be a negative. Ask to find out who will be communicating with you and who will be handling calls and showings. You want to know the extent of your agent’s work and involvement in the process. This question will also test the agent’s knowledge of the process: marketing/advertising / signage, open houses, negotiation of price and terms, qualification of buyers, contract negotiation, title, home inspections, closing. In our office, you can expect communications from the broker as part of our marketing efforts, plus office administrative assistants and your agent. The listing agent is your main point of contact, but our entire team is available should you have questions and to help throughout the journey to closing.

    Are your fees negotiable?

    All real estate agent fees are negotiable. There is no one fixed percentage or fee. However, each broker will set the office fees and policies. The agent you are interviewing may not have the power or authority to negotiate with you. When you interview one of our agents, they will tell you the fee to sell your home. All of our fees are presented up front, at signing of the contract, with no surprises at closing.

    At what price do you think my house will sell in the current market? 

    Ask the agent to show you (1) current homes for sale competing against yours and (2) solds for the past 6-12 months. Look at MLS printouts to compare your home and its amenities to these. Some may look similar on the outside but check details. Upgrades matter (granite kitchen, new appliances, fresh carpet/paint, newer roof or heating system). Looking at a one-page grid is not the best way to compare properties. Ask to see full printouts on comparables so you can judge for yourself. Once you’ve gone over these with the agent, ask them to give you a value range for suggested listing price.

    What is your advertising and marketing plan for my house?

    A solid blend of online and offline marketing will reach a broader spectrum of buyers. Know the manner and frequency of advertising and any open houses. The issue of open houses is controversial, and many agents believe they do not produce buyers (in truth only a small percentage of homes will sell directly because of an open house). There should at least be an open house or tour for other agents and brokers.

    Photos: The more photos a listing has, the more attention the home will get. Ask how many will be taken and by whom. A professional photographer is preferable. Our office will send a professional photograph to photograph most of our listings.

    Ask to see sample marketing materials. All agents will list your home in the local MLS and their website (make sure they have one) so that’s a given. You want to know what else will be done. Compare it to the marketing plan & materials of other agents. Our full list of marketing tools is online for you to compare.

    How long must I list my house with you?

    Our office normally requests 6-12 months, but we give you a 100% out clause. If at any point you are not pleased with our services or our office/agents in general, you may terminate your listing contract. Period. No questions asked – just send us an email or put it in writing (fax, letter) and we terminate the contract. This cuts both ways – and if we think we are not the best office for you or it’s just not working out, we can terminate the contract as well.

    How long have you been a real estate agent and how much education have you received?

    Agents need a good 2-3 years under their belts to get their feet wet and truly understand the complete listing/selling process. The longer an agent is in the business, in my opinion, the better for the seller. An agent with several years experience shows a dedication to the profession and an ample opportunity to acquire a good sense of the market. As far as education goes, by law, Pennsylvania agents are required to take 14 hours of classes every 2 years to keep their license in good standing. The best agents go above and beyond their minimum requirements. Our office hires only experienced full time agents. We encourage our agents to take more than the minimum classes, and we push them to take designation and broker-level courses to improve their understanding of this business. Our broker is one of only a handful of individuals in the United States who holds a MRE degree (Master’s of Real Estate) which requires over 2,000 hours of coursework taken over a 2-year period.

    Can you provide me the names and phone numbers of past clients as references?

    Check out the references. See what others online are saying about the agent. Zillow and other online sites offer agent reviews. We have testimonials and links to Zillow profiles on our page.

    How often and how will you communicate with me?

    Your Realtor should communicate with you regularly, updating you with any new information/concerns. They must inform you of all offers (even low ones). They should have email and be reachable most of the time should you have a question or concern. That’s not to say agents shouldn’t have time off. But if you text or email an agent, they should reply promptly. The best agents will ask YOU how you prefer to be communicated with? Do you text? Do you want a phone call or do you prefer email updates? You’ll be getting emails with marketing updates from our office, emails from the broker and agent both, and possibly communications with administrative assistants as well.

    Why should I hire you over your competition?

    The agent should have a ready answer. Most consumers are looking for a real estate agent who is:

    • Honest
    • Experienced
    • Excellent negotiators
    • Readily available by phone or e-mail
    • Good communicators
    • Quick to return calls or emails
    • Friendly
    • Analytical
    • Successful in getting results

    May I see the documents I will have to sign?

    Of course! If the listing agreement does not have a cancellation clause, ask if you can cancel if you are unhappy with the services. If you have the free right to cancel, the length of the listing agreement does not matter much. Read all documents and ask questions if you don’t understand anything. There are several types of listing agreements. Compare listing agreements provided by other agents, and show to your attorney if you have any doubts about what you are signing. A great agent will be well versed in contracts and be able to explain every paragraph or clause to you. Ask questions.

    What will be my closing costs?

    All agents should give you a summary of your estimated closing costs when signing a listing contract. In Pennsylvania, the seller’s fees are normally simple and include (but may not be limited to) – real estate commission, 1% transfer tax (typically buyer pays 1% and seller 1% as the tax is 2%), deed preparation, real estate taxes that are prorated, and final utilities.

    Can you explain the listing and sales process to me?

    This will give you all the steps involved in selling a home and why an agent is a valuable expert to have on your side.

    Do you have a website and/or blog?

    Most agents have a website. Visit it to get a sense of the agent and the brand. Not many agents have blogs (we do), but if they do have a blog, visit and read their posts and comments. You will get enormous insights into the agent’s personality and local expertise, among other things. Our office does have a blogand you can read info there on local people, places, events and of course real-estate related content.

    What haven’t I asked you that I need to know?

    Just as a good job interview ends with the interviewer asking a similar open ended question, this catch-all can prevent surprises later on. You’d be surprised what you’ll hear at this point – and it may make a huge difference in who you hire to sell your home.